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Sunday, August 22, 2010

Why Documentation is Important in Software Testing

In my Software Testing career, I never heard people talking much about software testing documentation. The general opinion about testing documentation is that, anyone who has free time can do the documentation like Test case, Test plan, status report, Bug report, project proposal etc.
Even I did not stress more on the documentation, but I can say it’s my habit to place all the data in black and white and to update others about that as well.
Just want to share my experience with you:
We had delivered a project (with an unknown issue in that) to one of our client (angry client). And they found issue at Client side, which was very bad situation for us, and as usual all blame was on QA’s. The issue was something regarding compatibility of one website. When it came to me, I was having proof that I didn’t get such requirement document which state I have to check compatibility of the website also. Thank god I was safe. That was the lesson for me, I realized importance of documentation and from that day I started to work on documents and created testing documents like Test plan, Test cases, sanity testing checklist, bug report and many.
“Ink is better than the best memory” – Chinese proverb
Software Testing Documentation: What’s that?
We all read various articles on testing technologies and methods, but how many of us have seen articles on documentation? No doubt there are few, Is it that documents are not important? No, but its’ because we have not yet realized importance of documents.
But, if we observe then the fact is, projects that have all the documents have high level of maturity. Most companies do not give even a little importance to the documentation as much they give to software development process. If we search on web then we can find various templates on how to create various types of documents. But how many of them are really used by organizations or individuals?
Fact is that, careful documentation can save an organization’s time, efforts and money. While going for any type of certification, why there is stress given on documentation, it’s just because it shows importance of client and processes to individual and organization. Unless you are able to produce document that is comfortable to user no matter how good your product is, no one is going to accept it.
It’s my experience, we own one product, which is having a bit confusing functionality. When I started working on that I asked for some help documents to Manager and I got answer “No, we don’t have any documents” Then I made an issue of that, because as a QA I knew, no one can understand how to use the product without documents or training. And if user is not satisfied, how we are going to make money out of that product?
“Lack of documentation is becoming a problem for acceptance” – Wietse Venema
Even same thing is applicable for User manuals. Take an example of Microsoft, they launch every product with proper documents, even for Office 2007 we have such documents, which are very explanatory and easy to understand for any user. That’s one of the reasons that all their products are successful.
In small companies, we always heard “project rejects in proposal or kickoff phase” it’s just because proposal documentation lacks concise and expressive language, and to show the capability of the organization. It’s not that small companies can’t deliver good quality projects but it’s their inability to express their capability. (Me also working with a small organization of 80 employees, and I heard this many time)
I personally feel Quality is the only department that can make it possible. We are the only department, which can argue on this and can provide successful future to our organizations.
Let’s organize all discussion in few points in quality perspective:
- Clarify quality objective and methods
- Ensure clarity about tasks and consistency of performance
- Ensure internal co-ordination in client work
- Provide feedback for preventive actions
- Provide feedback for your planning cycle
- Create objective evidence of your quality management system’s performance
There are hundreds of documents used in software development and testing life cycle. Here I am listing few important software testing documents that we need to use/maintain regularly:
1) Test plan
2) Test design and Test case specification
3) Test Strategy
4) Test summary reports
5) Weekly Status Report
6) User Documents/ manuals
7) User Acceptance Report
8 ) Risk Assessment
9) Test Log
10) Bug reports
11) Test data
12) Test analysis
Also Software testers regularly need refer following documents:
1) Software requirement specifications
2) Functional documents
Software Testing Documents always play an important role in Project development/testing phase. So always keep things documented whenever possible. Don’t rely on verbal communication. Be always on safe side. Documentation will not only save you but also help organization in long run saving thousands of dollars on training and more importantly on fixing issues caused due to lack of development and testing documents. Don’t document just to avoid finger pointing on you, but habit of documentation will certainly bring a systematic approach in your testing process, leaving the ad hoc testing behind.

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